Saturday, September 1, 2012

Back to Bataan, by Jerome Charyn

Life is not easy for a scholarship student; Jack should know, as he attends a private school on scholarship.  Jack's father died in Bataan, and Jack itches to leave school to join the Army, returning to Bataan with MacArthur to avenge his father's death.  But, as I mentioned, life is not easy for a scholarship student.  His mother works all day, and Jack is left to deal with breakup of his romantic relationship on his own.  He attempts retaliation against the enemy now courting his girl, then runs off and joins a group of criminals.  Later  he helps the police catch those same criminals.

This book is so different from the past books I have read by Charyn, that I am at a bit of a loss.  First off, the book is intended for middle grades readers, but I think this is a bit to esoteric a book for that age group.  While the setting is wonderfully described, I doubt many readers in that age group would be familiar enough with World War II, and specifically Bataan, to fully appreciate the setting.  Similarly, the nature of the story would be hard for middle grades readers to grasp, in that there is no real resolution within the story, other than of Jack's romantic relationship.

I personally really liked Jack as a character, and felt a lot of empathy for him.  He clearly lacks a good male role model, we see that with his interactions with several of the adult male characters in the book.  Jack is always missing something, whether he realizes it or not, and spends a lot of time trying to capture whatever he is missing.  All in all, I found Jack, and his story, to be engaging, but I think the intended audience might have a harder time connecting.

I received a review copy courtesy of Tribute Books.

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